Exercising with Osteoarthritis: How to reduce pain and improve function

Many people worry that exercising with osteoarthritis could harm your joints and cause more pain. These beliefs rely on ancient outdated non-medical models of osteoarthritis and have simply been passed down and carried on from the pseudoscientific beliefs of the 1700’s.

What modern science does know is that not only does exercise prevent and delay the onset of osteoarthritis, it can also reduce the pain and symptoms in even the most severe cases. In fact, exercise is now considered the most effective non-drug treatment for reducing pain and improving movement in people suffering from osteoarthritis.

A recent article in the American Journal of Rheumatology demonstrated that an individually designed exercise program was able to “significantly diminish knee pain, enhance joint function and safely promote pain-free walking in patients with severe knee osteoarthritis.” 

So What Exercises Work best for Osteoarthritis?
Range of motion exercises
Range of motion exercise are movements that help improve joint function. These movements help you move each joint through its full range of motion and are great ways to keep your joints flexible and reduce pain.

Aerobic exercise
Aerobic exercise strengthens the muscles of our heart and lungs making them stronger and more efficient. This conditioning reduces fatigue and builds stamina. Aerobic activities such as walking, jogging, bicycling and swimming also help to increase our energy expenditure helping to control weight.

Strength training
Strengthening exercises can be a vital treatment of osteoarthritis. Strengthening the muscles, bone, tendon and ligaments takes the stress off the cartilage of your joints. Allowing cartilage time to heal and protecting it from further damage.

Hydrotherapy is particularly helpful for people just beginning to exercise as well as those in severe pain. Hydrotherapy doesn’t just involve swimming. It involves specific exercises using the water pressure to support your body weight. By taking the pressure of your affected joints we can gently get your joint moving pain free, while building up your conditioning and strength.

How much Exercise should I be doing?
In general range of motion exercises should be performed every day to reduce pain. While the weekly recommendations for aerobic and strengthening, exercise is 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week or 75 minutes of high intensity exercise per week. Again, please ensure you speak to your Exercise Physiologist to find what types of exercise are suited to you and your joints before attempting high intensity exercise.

Everyone’s body is different so it’s important to be Smart about your Body, “Exercise is good, but exercise intelligently says Dr Bashir Zikria an Assistant Professor of Sports Medicine at Johns Hopkins University Medical Centre “Make sure you’re making smart choices and doing what’s suited to you.”

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